Facilitated by Alternative Means
On June 22, the American Bar Association hosted the inaugural Practice Development Institute for collaborative professionals in Chicago. The speakers included international collaborative professionals led by Forrest S. “Woody” Mosten. The event brought like-minded attorneys, therapists, mediators, social workers and financial specialists together with a common goal of peace and resolving conflicts. At the beginning of the program, pins were distributed that read, “Peacemaking: Let It Begin with Me.”
There is a growing movement around the world to offer alternative conflict resolution strategies instead of those of the past. The traditional services of an attorney and the court are definitely useful and needed, but not all matters need to go to court to fight. In fact, we are seeing that there are many matters that can be resolved more amicably through a mediator and/or collaborative professionals. Some of the professionals involved in a collaborative divorce may include collaborative attorneys, a divorce coach, a child specialist and/or a financial specialist to assist with the asset allocation.
To give some insight into how this works, in a collaborative divorce, each party retains an attorney and possibly other professionals to help them through the process. Everyone signs a participation agreement stating that they will not file a petition with the court until a resolution and agreement have been reached. The goal is for each of the professionals to help the parties reach a resolution, not to fight. Once an agreement has been reached, only then is the paperwork filed with and presented to the court.
Conversely, the mediator is a neutral third party that helps the parties reach a resolution and agreement. The parties may use attorneys as counsel through mediation or to bring other professionals into the mediation process if needed.
We are seeing a shift toward the acceptance of helping people through their legal problems in this way. It was inspiriting to hear Melissa Buckley, of the American Bar Association (ABA), speak at the program about her beliefs about the importance of this type of alternative service. Not only is the ABA promoting it, but the recent passage of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294, which defines the collaborative practice through the Collaborative Process Act and further clarifies the attorney’s role, demonstrates an acceptance of this type of practice.
The ABA awarded scholarships to the participants and alumni of the Justice Entrepreneur Project, an incubator founded by the Chicago Bar Foundation that helps attorneys starting their own law practices to offer alternative and progressive ways of service and billing such as flat fees, limited scope representation and unbundled services.
Throughout the two days of the event, Mosten inspired the attendees not to be afraid to offer collaborative services or mediation to help people resolve conflicts. He offered ways for the attendees to grow their practices so that they are not only promoting this type of peacemaking, but they can be successful in it, as well.
Resolving conflicts amicably can lead to a better outcome for all involved. This often includes helping individuals avoid health problems, feel more satisfied with their agreement, allow children to cope better and ease the parties’ transition. Although not for everyone, it has the ability to help many people looking for an alternative and peaceful way of resolving conflicts.
Cindy K. Campbell is an attorney who focuses on mediation, collaborative divorce, adoption, guardianship, wills and trusts at 150 S. Wacker Dr., Ste. 2400, in Chicago; and 236 S. Washington St., Ste. 202, in Naperville. For more information, call 866-566-9494 or visit CKCampbell.com.